Gypsy Girl

By Kathryn James

Walker Books


Sammy-Jo Smith is a traveller girl from a long line of fighters. Named after her father, Samson, who wanted a son to inherit his gym but only had daughters, Sammy is out to prove to the world that girls can be just as touch as boys. In fact, she's been proving her strength literally - by fighting in illegal cage fights under the name 'Gypsy Girl'.

Just a few days before her sister’s big wedding, the Smiths are told to get out of town by McCloud, who owns a business near their traveler campsite. Suddenly, it seems like everyone is out to get Sammy-Jo… except for Gregory Langston, who is awfully nice for a ‘gorjer’ boy, and not bad looking, either.

What we like about it

  • Sammy-Jo is an endearing and entertaining protagonist.
  • Not only does Sammy as a character insist that girls can be as tough as boys – the plot of Gypsy Girl proves that many of its female characters can take care of themselves, no matter what they look like or what their interests are.
  • The story raises points about traveler culture and discrimination toward travelers and their families without becoming an ‘issue-based’ book.

Questions & learning points

  • Although she is the only one interested in fights, Sammy is not the only strong girl in her family. In what ways do Sabrina, Beryl, Queenie, and even Granny Kate demonstrate their strength?
  • Milo Scarret causes a lot of trouble for Sammy, and his aggression is explained by a problem of his own that is revealed later in the story. Is this explanation a good excuse for his hateful attitude toward Sammy and others? Why or why not?
  • Many characters in Gypsy Girl discuss how it is difficult or unwise for a traveler to have a relationship with a ‘gorjer’ (outsider). What are some of the reasons this might be?


Rebecca: Apart from the brief intro, I found Gypsy Girl to have a slow start… but if you can stick it out for the first 100 pages, it is a very worthwhile read. I was initially put off by the title of the book (I am aware that some Romani and Irish Traveler folk feel that ‘gypsy’ is a slur and should be avoided), but after getting into the story and doing some research on the author’s background I can see why the term was used. Sammy-Jo is a compelling protagonist who I believe sets a strong example for young girls. She has interest in martial arts but she still loves to dress up with her sisters. Just because she loves to participate in fights doesn’t mean she loves hurting people. Sammy is a character that only grows on you the more you read, and Gypsy Girl was, on a whole, a compelling book. I wonder if young traveler teens would find this book to accurately portray their community, because I felt the author did a good job of both endearing readers to the Smith family and describing many aspects of their lifestyle.

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